Tolerance in almost every single society has taken a back seat. The growing intolerance is exhibited in our words, deeds and actions. Intolerance has manifold manifestations. Any opinion, rule, law, regulation that goes to divide any community on the basis of creed, culture, language, color, race, religion and sect is the first step towards cultivating and later harvesting, the seeds of intolerance.
Those who are fed upon biases, prejudices, and malice are bound to put on display, their respective levels of intolerance, which do not belong to your ilk of association and thinking. The conversion rate to being a person, who can easily detach from a firmly held belief that is inlaid in the depths of negative foundations of their characters, is a rarity. Recently, New Zealand surprised the world and set a new definition and standard of what tolerance is!
We all develop our “sense” of right and wrong by the time, we hit the teen years. What gets instilled in those first few years of formative innocence, ultimately guides, for the rest of life, the entire pattern of thinking, of any individual. It is “thinking” that leads towards “action”.
What is imprinted and ingrained on our minds during years of adolescence, reigns upon us for the rest of our lives. Psychoanalytic school of thought and many behavioral psychologists believe with resolution that the thought process that goes to build up a young child’s character is limited up to the first five years. The later years they conclude only cements the thought process. My catholic school taught me, virtues alone are noble - that is a thought, belief and practice, nobody can ever change, in me. It is part of my nature. Similarly, some of my family values embedded in me, like respect the elderly; that belief and application in everyday life, nobody or nothing will make it change. Said a man of religion, give me the custody of a child up to twelve years and then later you can attempt to teach him any religion, he would, I am assured remain steadfast to what I had taught him. It will not change”. The indoctrination that we have seen in history -be it the anti-Semitism of World War-II or the deep-seated hatred of the Japanese for the Koreans and Chinese, during that same period is a testimony, that intolerance breeds easily and is certainly viral.
It sounds music to the ears, to proclaim that all humans are equal. In reality, they are not. Why? It is for reasons of our collective intolerance to anybody who does not have similarity of views, with us, regardless of whichever aspect of life, it may relate to … be it religion, sect, nationality, linguistic, or political association. It pervades, through all layers of social setup. So, no surprise, that intolerance is prevalent in business and the corporate sector, too. Let’s analyse it.
Voltaire’s famous remark of defending to death the ‘right to say’ is the stem from where comes the definition of “what tolerance?” -It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each others’ folly that is the first law of Nature (1746 AD). An intolerant rebuke takes a second to administer by the manager, but the healing of the rebuked may need a life-time, to either forget or overcome. Evil over period of time and also with constant usage acquires acceptability. Evil ceases to be evil. The demarcating lines between truth and falsehood; between honesty and dishonesty, get totally smudged. There remains no black and white, only all shades of grey.
Connections, or said more directly, existence of nepotism, usually being unjustified prevent the growth of tolerant behavior. What teams working in organisations forget is sometimes, if fate is smiling, that they can actually go right, even if they go wrong together. Empathy, in the management of business and companies, is the answer to intolerance.
Managers must polish the skill towards accepting genuine mistakes of the ignorant. A manager, who deploys various formats of intolerance, to below par performance, normally employs the rule of ignoring, rebuke (private and public), raise decibel levels, and loose shirt, etc.
The highest level of education is tolerance (Helen Keller). Management is essentially the study of human behavior. As leaders and managers of the corporate world, we are continuously evaluating tolerance levels of others and our own selves. Human Resource Management is nothing except their understanding psychology of human behavior. Witnessing ‘intolerance’ in the board room to each others’ opinion does not speak about or refers to an ill organisation but certainly it indicates poor choice and judgment of the people, who put such individuals into the Board Room. If a Psycho-analysis of such individuals were to be done, it is bound to indicate some imbalances in life, suffered during the childhood and formative years.
J. F Kennedy had an apt description of what tolerance is. He said: “It implies no lack of commitment to one’s own belief. Rather it condemns the oppression and persecution of others”. If I was to render this into corporate lingua, tolerate as leaders the viewpoint of your colleagues, because they are not intended or directed against you as a person (have that faith), but are meant to save the institution possibly from the onslaught of negative market forces or it could be to save you, from your own misjudgments.
In the conduct of meetings, it is the chairperson’s job to show his solidarity to the trait of tolerance, to views that may be dissenting or different from his own, or expressed by other members; if he shows anger or cuts up people, it is bound to lead towards greater intolerance between colleagues, through the rank and file. I have witnessed many who would have put up a bold epitaph on their fore-heads “my way or the highway”. But such have invariably met with grievous end to their careers too; for they refused to tolerate and learn from a different point of view.
“He (your supervisor, if he is a true representative of his thought) has the courage of his convictions and the intolerance of his courage. He is opposed to death penalty for murder, but would impose willingly have anyone electrocuted who disagreed with him on the subject” (Thomas Aldrich).
To wage wars and battles, intolerance towards the enemy is an essential ingredient of motivation. If opponents were to be tolerant towards each other, would there be a need for them to pick up arms against each other. By deduction, if opposing views meet, it can go towards building an extremely formidable team. Profit through tolerance and not otherwise.
Don’t read tolerance to mean, all is good and well. Adopt an attitude of lest there is displeasure all around. No, this is not tolerance; this is subjugation and forced submission. “Sometimes with secret pride I sigh; to think how tolerant am I; Then wonder which is really mine; tolerance or rubber spine” (Phyliss Megurily). Being a boneless leader or a colleague, is never a good spectacle.
Tolerance is the test of acceptability and endurance to diversity. In contradiction alone, does this quality of tolerance come into play; when everything is agreeable and in harmony, there is no intolerance to be found.
Bernard Lewis quotes in “A Middle East Mosaic: “If you see a lapse in your brother (colleague) find seventy excuses for him. And, if you do not find any then blame yourself (manager). The Bracketed words are of the scribe. Tolerance is akin to bringing balance just as we do riding a bicycle.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist